A big crowd was expected to weigh in on a particularly controversial rezoning request at Monday’s Lincoln County Board of Commissioners meeting, and even though that specific case was postponed prior to the meeting, several members of the community still stepped forward to offer their opinion.
The rezoning request that necessitated moving the meeting to the James W. Warren Citizens Center auditorium involved an application submitted by Tim and Marian Dellinger seeking authorization to build a self-storage facility on 3.6 acres on the east side of Little Fork Cove Road near its intersection with Webbs Road in Denver.
A May 2 community meeting regarding the proposal became quite contentious, according to records kept during the meeting that have been posted on the county website. Neighbors expressed concern about the hours of operation, although none had been set, as well as lighting and the visibility of RVs that would be stored on the property. Notes from the meeting indicate that Marian Dellinger had to stop several times to ask that the audience stop yelling at her, and that commissioner Milton Sigmon even had to grab the microphone to advise the public to be more respectful.
This isn’t the first time the property in question has caused a stir, however, with it being the proposed site of a solar farm that was turned down by previous boards in 2013 and then again in 2017. Residents of the neighboring Sailview community vehemently opposed the solar farm, and some still begrudge the Dellingers for fighting to have it built on their land, according to records from the May 2 community meeting.
“One resident abruptly marched to the back of the room and yelled out that he had ‘no desire to let the Dellingers do anything, they think they own this town,’” the account of the meeting reads.
The Dellingers filed a lawsuit following the county’s initial ruling on the solar farm request in 2013, and eventually, Judge Yvonne Mims reversed the county’s ruling, citing a lack of substantial evidence to support the county’s claim that the solar farm would not be in harmony with the surrounding area. The court remanded the case back to the board of commissioners, which had undergone significant turnover since the original hearing in 2013, including the addition of Rich Permenter, a Sailview resident who opposed the solar farm as a private citizen when the issue was first raised.
Those fighting for the solar farm asked that Permenter be recused from the vote when the case was brought back before the board, but his fellow commissioners voted unanimously to include Permenter in the decision. Ultimately, the board voted 4-1 to deny the request once more, with commissioner Carrol Mitchem being the only one to vote in favor of the solar farm.
The Dellingers again challenged the county’s decision, and an appeals court found the county’s denial of the request to be invalid once again, ruling that Permenter should not have been allowed to vote.
It’s unclear what will happen now, with Strata Solar – the solar energy company slated to design, build and operate the farm on the Dellingers’ property – announcing in 2017 that it had no further intention to participate in the project.
While the property in question wasn’t discussed in any capacity during Monday’s board meeting, that didn’t stop those in opposition of the solar farm from coming out in droves. The audience was nearly sent into a frenzy when County Attorney Wesley Deaton advised that the commissioners could not answer questions or comment on the specifics of the case, but that didn’t stop a few in the crowd from having their voices heard.
“We elect local government to represent us in making decisions that affect our community,” Sailview resident Ron Dwyer said. “Once this board of our representatives makes a decision regarding a permit application, it is the responsibility and obligation of this board to defend its decisions if they are challenged in court. Battles are fought not knowing the outcome, and not fighting a battle because you feel the odds may be against you is taking the easy way out. If this board decides not to fight this battle because it feels the outcome is in question, the members of this board will be in violation of their oath to represent and defend this community.”
Currently, the fate of the property remains in limbo, and it’s unclear when the issue may be addressed again.
In other county business, the board awarded the county’s industrial incentive grant to a pair of companies putting money back into their Lincoln County facilities.
Cataler will invest nearly $15 million to expand its equipment and improve the facility within which it’s housed, and in-turn, the county will provide nearly $50,000 in grant money each year for a five-year period, which will be paid in the form of a refund on Cataler’s tax bill. The other industry, Dellinger Precast, will invest more than $3 million and create at least 25 additional jobs, while the county will provide the company with approximately $10,000 in grant funding each year for a five-year period.
The board voted unanimously in favor of allowing Communities in Schools to sublease space within the Oaklawn Community Center to Special Olympics of Lincoln County, which plans to construct additional recreational components on the property through a combination of volunteer hours and a private donation.
The board also voted unanimously to allow Lincoln County Public Library Director Jennifer Sackett to purchase three 30-pack Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Google Expedition Kits from Aquila Education. These kits are the same ones used by Lincoln County Schools and all but $650 of the $32,650 purchase price will be covered by grant funding awarded to the library.
The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners will meet again Monday, Aug. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at the county administration building on North Generals Boulevard.